A sport shooting group has come under fire from politicians and campaigners after labelling people opposed to trophy hunting as “unsophisticated”.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) made the remark in an official submission to the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which is holding a public consultation on plans to ban imports and exports of hunting trophies.
Trophy hunting involves shooting wild and domestic animals due to their size, rarity, or ornamental appearance. Hunters then keep a part of the animal such as the head, fur or skin as a souvenir ‘trophy’.
BASC referred to “the unsophisticated members of the public who are being persuaded by anti-hunting groups to respond to the consultation” in opposition to trophy hunting.
In response, the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH) said that “the shooting industry lobby isn’t just out of touch with public opinion in Scotland – it is openly insulting Scottish people.”
The SNP’s Dr Lisa Cameron MP called BASC’s comment “overwhelmingly condescending” and “entirely out of step” with the UK public. The Liberal Democrats emphasised that people “are furious about trophy hunting, especially when it involves species that are on the brink.”
BASC told The Ferret that those seeking a ban were “animal rights extremists and celebrities chasing cheap headlines and social media likes” while “experts in ecology, wildlife conservation and natural resources” were in favour of trophy hunting.
A CBTH-commissioned Survation opinion poll published in October 2019 found that 86 per cent of those in UK – and 89 per cent in Scotland – agreed with the statement: “Trophy hunting should be universally banned”.
CBTH said the survey showed a ban was supported by 96 per cent of SNP voters, 90 per cent of LibDem and Labour voters and 87 per cent of Conservative voters.
UK hunters have made headlines in recent years after shooting big game such as elephants, lions and rhinos in foreign countries. However, foreign hunters also travel to the UK to hunt native animals, such as deer, goats and sheep, as well as non-domestic animals bred for shooting.
In 2018 we reported that US celebrity hunter Larysa Switlyk shared a series of posts on social media which appeared to show animals she had shot and killed on Islay and Ardnamurchan. Among the animals killed were goats, stags and a ram.
The images prompted local MSP and Scottish Government minister Michael Russell to call for such practices to be “stopped immediately”, raising the issue “as a matter of urgency” with the Scottish Government’s environment secretary, Roseanna Cunningham.
The government later confirmed that Cunningham would consider “whether any clarification of or changes to the law might be required.”
UK sporting estates also breed exotic animals to offer to clients, such as the Père David’s Deer, which is classed as extinct in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
An 88-strong group of cross-party MPs, including 30 representing Scottish constituencies at the time of publication, have signed a UK Parliament Early Day Motion calling for the government to ban the import and export of hunting trophies.
The signatories were “strongly of the view that killing animals for trophies is indefensible and cruel and that it has no place in the modern world”.
SNP MP Cameron is sponsoring the motion. “Not only is this organisation entirely out of step with the views of the overwhelming majority of people across the UK, but their given response appears overwhelmingly condescending to the British public and lacks insight,” she said.
Her comments were echoed by the Wera Hobhouse MP, the Liberal Democrats’ Defra spokesperson. “People are furious about trophy hunting, especially when it involves species that are on the brink,” she said. “Our laws should reflect that.”
Hobhouse added: “There obviously instances when shooting is required for conservation and to control populations, but the law can allow that while also clamping down on the hunting and killing of rare and endangered animals across the world.”
The whole sick industry needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history. Eduardo Goncalves, Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting
BASC argued that there were “two inherent differences between those that are against so-called trophy hunting and those that understand its benefits.”
Those seeking a ban “are a collaboration of animal rights extremists and celebrities chasing cheap headlines and social media likes,” said a BASC spokesperson. “Those in favour are made up of experts in ecology, wildlife conservation and natural resources.”
The spokesperson added: “Science must be allowed to triumph sensationalism as anything else would prove catastrophic for biodiversity and rural communities around the world that depend on sustainable hunting for income and food.”
CBTH founder, Eduardo Goncalves, said that “the overwhelming majority of people and parliamentarians” were “strongly opposed to trophy hunting because it is cruel and immoral.”
For BASC to “simply dismiss them as unsophisticated is simply astounding and shows breathtaking arrogance,” he said. “Their response is to say that only they know best and everybody else is in the wrong. It’s quite staggering.”
Goncalves added: “People who enjoy killing animals for entertainment are a tiny minority, no more so than in Scotland. The people who participate in it are clearly living in the past. The whole sick industry needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history.”